29 January 2014

De Cervesia, Lucca, Italy

A decision to visit Tuscany in January 2014 was influenced by finding a Guardian article 'Tuscany on tap: a beer-lover's guide to the region' by Donald Strachan. Tuscany on Tap (Guardian)
Lucca was one of the cities I wanted to visit and it was nice to discover that De Cervesia in Lucca was one of the five places in Tuscany that Donald recommended beer-lovers should visit.

Pisa train at Lucca station
Lucca lies about 10 miles north east from Pisa, the nearest city with an airport. Lucca is well served by direct electric trains from Pisa Centrale station with a single fare of 3.30 Euros (January 2014).
Outline of Lucca ramparts - X marks De Cervesia, P marks Mara Meo Pizzeria
Lucca railway station lies to the south of the ramparts that surround the historic innner centre of the city.
Borgo gate / Porta dei Borghi
De Cervesia is located at Via Michele Rosi, 20, and is near to Piazza Santa Maria and very close to the Borgo gate (Porta dei Borghi). These landmarks are in the north of the historic inner centre of the city and within the surrounding ramparts.
De Cervesia - closed in the morning
On the other side of Via Michele Rosi is Ciclo DiVino a unit that looks like a bicycle shop but which is actually a wine bar. 
Even in January, the street outside De Cervesia is lively in the evening with customers of the two establishments socialising in the shared space.

1st visit to De Cervesia, Tuesday 14 January 2014


Staying in Lucca on my own, I was keen to visit De Cervesia on my first night in the city. Even with the address, I discovered that not all streets have signs so it took a few wrong turns before I located De Cervesia, near Borgo gate.

Matteo in front of the bar at De Cervesia
De Cervesia is described as a beer shop but there is a bar and a few bar stools. These were occupied when I arrived so I stood at the bar until a stool became available. Matteo gave me a friendly welcome and a chance to taste a draught beer before ordering. I liked the taste of Gaina so was happy to order a full glass, at a cost of 3 euros.

Gaina - Birrificio Lambrate
Gaina, a well hopped IPA (6% ABV) is brewed by Birrificio Lambrate, Milan. This brewery was founded in 1996 and has both a brewpub and a pub near to Milan's Lambrate station.

Full bottle of Gaina next to glass containing draught Gaina
I gave Matteo a copy of Ullage, the West Berkshire CAMRA magazine. Matteo mentioned that he used to stock bottled beers from Brewdog and St Peter's Brewery but now De Cervesia serves only Italian beers. 

There is a chilled beer display on the wall behind the bar. Matteo stocks beers from the Italian breweries he rates as the best including several from the Lucca region. The beers on the left hand side of the top shelf with coloured collars are from Birrificio Brùton, San Cassiano di Moriano which is located beside the river Serchio, about 5 miles north east of Lucca. The bottles in the centre of the top shelf are from Birrificio La Petrognola, based in Colognola, near the source of the river Serchio, about 30 miles north of Lucca.
Unlike the UK, few Italian beer bottles are 50cl size. Matteo recommended beers from Birrificio del Forte which are supplied in 75cl bottles. The brewery is based in Pietrasanta, near the Mediterranean coast, about 15 miles north west of Lucca.
The two other breweries from the province of Lucca which Matteo mentioned are Birroir Birrificio Artigianale and Birrificio degli Archi.

Extraomnes - Zest
Matteo especially recommended the bottled beers from Extraomnes and he took a 33cl bottle of Zest from the middle of the lower shelf and carefully poured it for me. This bottle cost 5 euro, the same price as bottles from Brùton but more expensive than Petrognola (4 euro). The brewery is located in Marmate, about 20 miles north west of Milan. The brewer, Luigi D’Amelio, won the title of  '2013 Brewer of the Year', from the Fermento Birra network. The well hopped beer (5.3% ABV) has a bitter finish, spicy and fruity flavours. Matteo kindly translated the tasting notes that mentioned hints of gooseberry, nectarine and lychee.
When Matteo was not busy serving beer, collecting empty glasses or chatting with customers, he found time to change the music and it was nice to discover some music from Italy including the Supersantos album by Mannarino.
The permanently open door to the street meant that it was not very warm inside De Cervesia but at least it was now possible for me to sit down on a bar stool after a seated customer left.
My third and final beer of the night would be from the other draught tap which was dispensing Brighella, a Christmas beer from Birrificio Lambrate.
This 8% ABV Belgian style beer had a sweeter taste than the previous beers and also provided some warmth to counter the breeze through the doorway!
Before leaving I paid my tab of 11 euros and asked Matteo if he could recommend any local pizza restaurants.
Mara Meo Pizzeria - Piazza San Francesco
The first one he suggested, Bella 'Mbriana, opposite the youth hostel in nearby Via della Cavallerizza, turned out to be closed for a holiday period but Mara Meo in Piazza San Francesco, on the way to my B&B, was a friendly and cosy place to stop for an economical meal.

2nd visit to De Cervesia, Thursday 16 January 2014

Having spent Wednesday in Florence for some sightseeing and stops for refreshment at Birrificio Mostodolce and Archea Brewery, it was time to visit De Cervesia again on my last night in Lucca.
Porto San Gervasio, Lucca
I stopped to photograph another gate inside the historic centre of Lucca on my way to Matteo's beer shop.

On this night, there were three fonts of draught beer to choose from. My first choice was Brùton Bianca, a Belgian style witbier (4.5% ABV). 

This was a good example of a refreshing wheat beer, brewed only 5 miles away. In fact Matteo was able to point out Iacopo Lenci, the Brùton brewer with a Mohican style haircut, to me. He was having a beer just outside with some friends after making a delivery to De Cervesia.
Matteo Sargenti
Although I did not have an opportunity to get a photo of Iacopo, I was able to persuade Matteo to pose for one.
Brewfist - Burocracy
Now it was time to have a glass of the other draught beer which I had not tried - Burocracy from BrewFist. Matteo poured this into the brewery's branded glass. This was an IPA (6% ABV) with plenty of flavour and bitterness. I had noticed that bottles of BrewFist Spaceman were very popular with customers at De Cervesia but I did not have a chance to taste this alternative IPA (7% ABV). The Brewfist brewery was founded in 2010 and is located in Codogno, about 30 miles south east of Milan.
Before leaving De Cervesia I was glad to be able to have a bit of conversation with Alessio, a fellow customer, although my poor Italian meant that it was hard work for Alessio to make himself understood in English. At least beer is a universal language and beer-lovers are always welcomed in specialist beer bars.
Mara Meo pizzeria is on the left of the Church of San Francesco
It was time for another visit to Mara Meo pizzeria in Piazza San Francesco before heading back to the B&B via Porta Elisa, one of the few routes through the ramparts that surround the historic central part of Lucca.
Porta Elisa, Lucca


De Cervesia, Lucca - contact details: 

De Cervesia, Via Michele Rosi, 20, 55100 Lucca, Italy
Tel +39 0583 492620
Check locally for current opening times. Note that De Cervesia may be closed on Sunday and will usually close at 10pm or earlier on other days.

Links for breweries mentioned in this post:

Birrificio Lambrate (English homepage)

Birrificio Bruton 

Birrificio La Petrognola 

Birrificio del Forte 

Birroir Birrificio

Birrificio degli Archi



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